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Austerity Measures

I don’t need David Cameron or George Osbourne to tell me I need to tighten my belt. 

In January 2009, when I was 7 months pregnant, I was made redundant.  A certain diamond mining company found that it was suffering from the economic downturn.  Hmmm…. A freakish misogyny. 

So, one of the worst things that can happen in one’s working life happened to me.  It came as quite a shock, I was obviously very irritated, and still not sure how I got through it.  I managed to negotiate a reasonable settlement, and put myself on a very tight ration of cash.  But that ration would run out in 10 months. 

Thank goodness I am gainfully employed once more, but I have stuck firmly to my own self-imposed austerity measures – as you never know what can happen.

Here’s what I did:

Stayed home.  We used to eat out a few nights a week.  Or have a killer takeaway from Khans.  We started cooking real food – for ourselves.  Savings:  about £3000.00 a year.

Shopped at Waitrose.  If I’m staying in, I’m not eating crap from Tesco.  Quality organic foods are the only thing worth eating.  We don’t buy processed foods, and that also makes a difference.  Shopping well doesn’t have to be expensive – read this article from the Guardian about the goodness of Waitrose.  US folks, just get yourself to a decent supermarket. 

Made our own baby food.  He wouldn’t eat anything else, so we had to anyway.  Savings:  about £500.00 a year. 

I have always used Johnson’s Baby Lotion to cleanse my face.  I used to use Vichy or Lancome but ran out one day and found that lo and behold, I could get a very similar result by slathering on JBL, letting it sink in for a few minutes while I brushed my teeth, and washing it off with warm water.  If it is tested to be gentle enough for a baby’s ass, it must be OK for my face.  Savings:  about £500.00 a year.

Lost weight.  Life is a hell of a lot easier and less expensive when you can wear clothes with ease.  I was able to fit into more of the clothes I had already, so popping back down to a size 8 (US 2/4) saved me loads.

Also I bought virtually no clothes, shoes, handbags or makeup.  Like most reasonably well-heeled women, I have more than enough.  Frankly, I could probably get away with buying virtually nothing for a few more years.  I do a total wardrobe review every 3 months and I’ve tried to be more creative.  OK, the one exception was 2 pairs of skinny jeans from Nicole Farhi in Bicester Village.  I went there on Boxing Day or New Years Day and found that there is infinitely more stuff at Bicester Village than in London.  And a rather pleasant environment also.  I did buy an Alexander McQueen dress also (on sale at Bicester Village), but that was a Christmas gift to myself.  Savings:  about £3000.00 a year.

E-bay.  I sold a load of stuff on e-bay and made about £1000.00  I don’t believe in getting rid of very good clothes, but there was no way I was going to get into my 1987 leather biker jacket, or the horrifying 1991 purple Issey Miyake shift dress that I mistakenly wore to a suburban wedding…  Hello.  I felt I could be totally realistic about some of these “items” I’d been carting around for decades.  So, if it no longer flatters you, move it out!  I’m about to have another E-bay week, I’ll probably raise another £1000.00.  I try to save it all up at once and spend the weekend taking the pictures, setting it all up on E-bay, etc.  Good pictures and lots of verbage will ensure I get top dollar for my stuff.  Profit:  about £1500.00 a year.

Bought all the baby clothes on e-bay.  Well, Alex bought all the clothes – he’s obsessed.  I’ve never believed in paying retail full price for ANYTHING, but some people go bonkers when they have a baby and everything has to be brand new.  (Or worse – designer… There is nothing more horrible than a baby dressed in Burberry.)  Anyway, you can save a ton of money by shopping cleverly on e-bay.  Or in consignment shops.  And its recycling, which is good all around.  Savings:  about £1500.00 a year.

Found a new botox doctor.  There are some things that just cannot be cut out completely.  Sorry, but for me this is one of them.  There is only so much a girl can take.   I waited until after I stopped breastfeeding of course.  Bye bye Harley Medical Group.  Hello Cosmedoc – about half the price.  Savings:  about £500.00 a year.

Stopped buying little bits of tat and food on the go.  All these little micro-purchases of magazines, newspapers, bottled water, coffee, sandwiches, muffins, etc. etc. – these add up.  If you’re shelling out £5.00 a day on miscellaneous crap, it adds up to over £1500.00 a year.  Savings:  about £1500.00 a year.

Found a new pedicurist.  Imagine paying over £35.00 for a “light touch” pedicure.  Rubbish.  But that is what they want at some of these places in London.  I humbled myself and went onto the Edgware Road and found a lovely place with the proper massage chairs and where they remove all the dead skin from your feet with a razor.  Love it!  £20.00 instead.  Savings:  about £200.00 a year.

Stopped drinking at the pub.  Obviously you can’t spend time in the pub when you have a child, but to pay £4 or 5 squids for a glass of bad wine is silly.  Get a decent bottle and stay in with friends.  Once a month or so I do find that we are out in a pub, but not for long.  It really is a waste of time and money.  Depending on how much time you spend at the pub, by eliminating one average trip to the pub a week can save you £1500.00 a year.  Savings:  about £1500.00 a year.

Alex just chimed in – Eat offal!  Yes, in addition to eating at home instead of out all the time, we now eat lots of inexpensive organic offal.  Lambs hearts, ox hearts, ox cheek, ox tongue.  Yum – learn how to cook it and you can benefit from some of the best lean protein.  And nose to tail eating is so very lovely and austere.  If I compare the price to what I would pay if I were eating prime cuts, the savings would be about £2000.00 a year.  Wow.  But I would never eat that much prime meat.
Savings:  about £1000.00 a year.

Also UK ladies, if you are having a baby, make sure you are aware of things like Maternity Exemption for prescriptions, dental care, etc.  Get informed.  The amount I contributed in income tax and national insurance over the last 10 years makes my eyes water – do not feel guilty about getting something in return.

So, our total household savings was something like £14,500.00.  For you folks in the USA that’s about $22,000.00.

Pretty good, hey?